Simple assault in Pennsylvania will typically arise from an argument. Whether it’s someone you know or a stranger, you can be charged with this crime if you were the first to escalate it to violence. We’ll look at the charges and punishment for it, so you can prepare for what’s ahead.

Simple Assault Vs. Aggravated Assault 

There are two general categories of assault in Pennsylvania, and it helps to know the difference. In the case of simple assault, the damages are less than in the cases of aggravated assault.

This may include:

  • Attempts to cause injury to another party.
  • Causing injury to another party.
  • Negligently causing injury to another party with a deadly weapon, including hypodermic needles.
  • Trying to invoke fear of serious bodily injury. This is known as being a physical menace.

Simple assault cases are usually tried as a misdemeanor by the court because the outcomes typically aren’t severe. For example, plenty of bar fights will fall under this charge. The most important thing to remember about simple assault is that injury does not always have to occur to result in an arrest. A person might take a swing at another and miss entirely but still be charged with a simple assault. This is because the intent was there, even if there was no physical contact.

Charges and Penalties for Simple Assault 

While simple assault is usually a misdemeanor, that doesn’t mean the charges aren’t of consequence. There are a few ways that simple assault can be categorized:

  • Third-degree misdemeanor: The accused could pay up to $2,500 in fines and spend up to a year in jail.
  • Second-degree misdemeanor: The accused could pay up to $5,000 and spend up to two years in jail.
  • First-degree misdemeanor: The accused could pay up to $10,000 and spend up to five years in jail.

These are different penalties than aggravated assaults. Because aggravated cases are typically charged as felonies, a first-degree one could result in up to 10 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. Please note that sex crimes typically do not result in assault charges. They are tried under a separate category under state law.

How Simple Assault Cases Are Tried 

In the case of a simple assault, the circumstances are of the utmost importance. For instance, if the victim was under the age of 12, even minor incidents will be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. Overall, the majority of cases are tried as second-degree.

As with any number of legal proceedings, it’s normal to have different opinions about the same situation. This means that one judge might classify an act as third-degree while another might judge it to be more severe and label it as second-degree. There are no hard-and-fast rules here because every assault case will come with its own individual circumstances. It’s also not limited to who started the fight. If either party becomes violent, it can lead to both being charged.

The Complexity Behind Simple Assault 

Simple assault cases often have some very complex stories attached to them. For instance, a child under the age of 12 doesn’t necessarily bear the burden of proof when it comes to their case, leading to confusion in the court system. For example, an 11-year-old is angry at their mother and decides to call the police for simple assault when in reality there was no domestic violence at home. As the family members tell their entirely opposing stories, it could be difficult for anyone to figure out who is telling the truth.

The same is true for accidental injuries. For instance, let’s say that two people are having a good time at a bar when one slaps the other on the back in jest. Because the other person is inebriated, though, the slap causes them to be thrown off balance and they fall to the floor. If the person who fell decides to sue for their injuries, it would be a matter of whether the arbitrator could get to the bottom of the story.

These kinds of cases come up every day, and the amount of effort it takes to learn the truth can be staggering. Take the case of a self-defense injury. If one person is cornered against a wall and the other person throws the first punch, they may need to fight back to leave the fight. If there are no witnesses, though, it might just look like two people fighting one another. If the aggrieved party correctly claims that they were the victim, it could take some time to suss out the situation.

Proving that a person was intentionally knowingly or recklessly performing the act becomes a matter of a third party trying to figure out who did what and when. Sometimes even the people involved don’t know exactly what happened, which can lead to unfair criminal charges.

Why Your Criminal Defense Matters 

If you’ve been charged with simple assault, you may be worried about how the law will resolve your case. This is why it’s so important to have the right legal counsel by your side. As you can see, the circumstances of each case can become exceptionally complicated. A qualified attorney will not only listen to what happened, but they’ll also collect information that can ultimately free you from the charges.

If you were charged with simple assault in your county, contacting an expert criminal defense attorney today is the first step to having your voice heard. Whether it was an accident, a misunderstanding, or self-defense, you can leave the arguments to a professional who understands the law and how it can be applied in your case.